Bill Van Loo – live performances at AADL

At the start of the new year, Bill Van Loo was invited to perform for a new series hosted by Ann Arbor District Library called “Tools Crew Live”. Essentially, the idea is that artists are invited to borrow some of the library’s amazing music tools (such as Moog synthesizers, guitar pedals, Roland musical instruments, and much more!) and craft a performance around them.

Check out the full interview plus see both complete videos from the performances. Many thanks to AADL and Chris Porter for the invitation to perform and participate!

Pedalboard update!

Since I’ve been stalled on working on my new album’s worth of material for a while (over a year, actually!), I thought it would be fun to get inspiration by pulling some gear together in a new way and adding a few new pieces together. Hence, a new pedalboard for guitar!

Here’s a video overview, and below that are some detail photos of the new setup.


Pedalboard Photo Gallery

Click photos for larger view.


Bill Van Loo solo album update: May 2012

May was a good month for working on the new record. Lots of fragments started getting more fully developed, and two studio spaces got more completely set up and ready to work in.

Here’s the monthly album update video, along with some photos from the chromedecay instagram feed.

studio work on instagram

Bill Van Loo solo album update: April 2012

This is the best summary I can show of how the work is going so far on the new solo record:

Bill Van Loo solo album: Working files

That’s 12 sketches worth of music, all of which have Ableton Live sessions started for them, tempos defined, and rough mixes rendered. That’s not to say that these are completed by any stretch – far from it! This is really just the beginning. Now begins the interesting work of fleshing out, writing, recording, and turning these sketches into compositions and songs.

Here’s the video update for this month and a few more behind-the-scenes photos.


Bill Van loo solo album: PodXT Live

Bill Van loo solo album: guitar tab

Bill Van Loo solo album: March 2012 update

More work this month on the new Bill Van Loo solo record. Like February, this was also a busy month outside of music. Much of this month was spent using the Zoom H4n recorder as an audio sketchpad, capturing song and sound texture ideas in the small spaces and in-between moments of the month.

Zoom H4N

Here’s a short behind-the-scenes video from recording one of these sketches, and a few photos from the process.

I also wanted to write a few words about both the process and the concept for this record. Most of my previous work as a solo artist has been doing strictly instrumental electronic music. The biggest departures from that were the two ambient guitar records I produced (“6 strings for a winter’s day“, and “the ghost of an idea“), and even those use lots of electronic production.

As you may be able to gather from my talk of “songs”, and from all the guitar you see me playing in these videos, this new record will be a departure, or perhaps an evolution, from my electronic music. There will still be electronic production and sounds, and a big focus on the textures that are a defining part of my previous work. However, I’m really excited to work on some songs for this record.

One of the most helpful things I’ve ever read as a creative person was Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit“. In her book, Tharp talks about knowing how you see the world and how that translates in your art. I realized that I tend toward the wide-angle view, taking in textures, ambience, setting, season, and location. The titles of my previous work is a testament to that (“Autumn DSP”, “6 strings for a winter’s day”, “raindays”, etc).

This new work, in the other hand, seeks to build up that backdrop of location and ambience, and put something personal and intimate in front of that. Not everything in the record will likely have lyrics and singing, but some of it will. This is shaping up to be the most personal record I’ve ever made, and I am excited about the possibilities of it.

Bill Van Loo - tracking guitar rough ideas

PodXT Live (detail)

Bill Van Loo solo album: February 2012 update

Work continues on the new Bill Van Loo solo record, albeit at a slower pace than hoped for. This was a particularly busy month outside of music. Regardless, I was able to get a number of fragments and ideas captured, which falls nicely in line with my process thus far. Here’s a short video update and some behind-the-scenes photos.

recent DIY/repair projects: guitar pedals, Bliptronic 5000

Here are some recent projects I’ve been working on. After receiving a Big Muff guitar pedal from my cousin Jamie (from The Press Delete), I started thinking more about building up a pedalboard again for my guitar playing. I’ve been quite happy with the Line 6 PodXT Live, but there’s something special about guitar pedals: they typically do one thing, and do it well.

pedalboard before repairs/positioning

As such, I got out my case of unused guitar pedals and started going through them. I ended up selling one (an old graphic EQ pedal that I never used any more) and looked more closely at the other two. I have 3 pedals currently: the Big Muff clone, an Arion SAD-1 analog delay pedal, and an Arion SCH-1 chorus pedal. Combined with my practice amp (a Vox Pathfinder 15R), I’d have a fuzztone, chorus, delay, tremolo (built into the amp, and quite nice!) and spring reverb (also built into the amp, and also really nice!). This suits my style of playing pretty well, so I figured it was worth doing a bit of repair work to get the two Arion pedals in good shape.

Arion SCH-1 analog delay: needed new 9V clip
Arion SCH-1 analog chorus, in need of a new 9V battery clip

Arion SAD-1 analog delay: before repair
Arion SAD-1 analog delay, with a flaky “repeat” potentiometer and bad 9V battery clip

Both Arion pedals needed new 9V battery clips, which is an easy repair – snip off the old ends, trim a new Radio Shack 9V clip to size, twist the wires together, and solder. Easily done:
Arion SCH-1 analog chorus: 9V clip fixed!
Arion SCH-1 analog chorus: 9V clip fixed!

I also had to remove the bad potentiometer from the SAD-1 analog delay pedal, so I did that while repairing the 9V clip:

Arion SAD-1 analog delay: 9V clip fixed, bad potentiometer removed
Arion SAD-1 analog delay: 9V clip fixed, bad potentiometer removed

I now have to locate a source for a new potentiometer that fits the SAD-1, which may prove difficult. Worst case, I end up getting a new enclosure for the pedal and rehousing it completely. That wouldn’t be all bad, as the existing enclosure is plastic, but it would mean spending more money and time on this little guy. The analog delay is really nice, though, so I think it will be worth it in the end.

Arion SAD-1 analog delay: bad potentiometer removed

I also started thinking about the Bliptronic 5000 music box (see related 52 things posts “42/52: Bliptronic 5000!” and “43/52: new video – ‘a bliptronic day’“). I like it a lot, but the 1/8″ miniplug output means having to use a cable with an adapter to change it to 1/4″ if I’m going to plug it into a mixer or my audio interface. I think having a 1/4” output jack instead might be nice, so I opened it up to see how feasible it is:

bliptronic 5000: side view

bliptronic 5000: internals

Verdict? It’s incredibly tight in there. I might be able to squeeze a 1/4″ jack in there, but it’s going to be tight. I may have to re-route the headphone output if I do put one in. I’m still undecided about whether or not I’ll pursue that. Lots of other mods are possible, so I may wait before tackling a more ambitious project with the bliptronic and roll the 1/4″ output into a larger project.